April 29, 2013

Forest Park

I visited the Forest Park Library to clean the quilts that have been on display for several years.  See the previous post for an explanation of the vacuuming process.

Here's a little tour of one of the quilts.  This is a log cabin, barn raising set.

It's one of those fun things, a signed and dated quilt.  It was made in 1995, designed and made by Egle Rukstelyte-Sundstrom with help from members of the Salt Creek Quilters Guild.

So, as a dated quilt, it presents us with a great collection of fabrics of the era.  Most of the fabrics are floral prints.  The flowers and leaves are pretty dense, very little background color showing through.  Many are multi-colored, somewhat realistic, sometimes kind of swirly.

Here are some comparisons to floral fabrics in other quilts I've written about on this blog:

c. 1870 - finely etched designs, realistic, widely spaced, sometimes on patterned grounds
more about this quilt

c. 1900 - two-color prints, widely spaced designs
more about this quilt

1930s - stylized flowers, Art Deco influence
more about this quilt

1940s - similar to the 30s, sometimes larger flowers
more about this quilt

1970s - bold colors, cartoon-like designs
more about this doll

embroidered date - 1976
more about this quilt

The Forest Park log cabin also tells the story of the almost overwhelming quantity of prints that have been made available to quilt makers, as the quilting renaissance after the Bicentennial grew into a major market share of fabric sales.  I was quilting and collecting fabrics in the 90s, and there's still not a single print here that I own.

As I was vacuuming and musing on the quilt, I started to think what I fine selection of fabrics it is for a library in a place called Forest Park.  Altogether quite park-y and quite forest-y.

April 24, 2013

Have Vacuum, Will Travel

Vacuuming is probably the safest way to freshen a hanging quilt.  

I spent a good part of the day yesterday at the Forest Park Library, vacuuming three quilts that the library has on display.

It's the first time I've packed up my vacuum and hit the road.  

I also brought sheets to put on the tables.  And my vacuuming screen.  That is made from fiberglass window screen, from the hardware store, stapled onto sealed stretcher bars.  The screen keeps the quilt from being pulled into the vacuum nozzle.

The vacuuming is done by holding the vacuum nozzle just above the screen. This keeps it from scraping along over the fabric.  I usually keep the tip of one finger under the edge of the nozzle as I go.

Do the back of the quilt first, then put down a clean sheet and flip over to do the front.

Methodically move the nozzle back and forth over the whole surface.  I sometimes go across the screen side-to-side, and then repeat top-to-bottom or on diagonals.  It do this especially on quilts like this one with a relatively thick batting, and deeper ditches made by the quilting stitches.

It's kind of slow going.  It takes about 2 hours to vacuum an average-sized bed quilt, roughly 70-something by 80-ish inches.

Vacuuming doesn't make a huge difference in appearance usually.  At least, hopefully, a quilt won't be dirty enough to really show a change.  You may be able to detect a brightening of colors though.  I tried on this swath of white-background fabric on the quilt back.  Sometimes when I squint just right, I think I can see that the lefthand, vacuumed side is a bit brighter, the righthand side a bit duller.  Or is that just wishful thinking?

I'm pretty sure, though, always, that I can hear the quilt saying "Oh, thank you!  That feels much better!"

I only recommend washing quilts when the soil is so bad that it is damaging the fabrics, or so bad that there is no way to use or enjoy the quilt unless it is cleaned.  That said, it's a good idea to vacuum the quilt before washing it. This decreases the amount of dust and dirt that goes into the water, and makes clear rinse water much easier to achieve.

Here's a closer look at this log cabin its fabrics.  

April 22, 2013

An Old, Old Quilt

If, like me, you always like your antiques "the older the better", here's a quilt that fits the bill.

I came across this article a short while ago - it tells the story of a very, very old quilt that resides in Ohio.

The quilt is a whole cloth wool quilt.  It was made by the aptly-named Martha Crafts, born in 1760.  Family history says she made it prior to her 1787 marriage to Zachariah Howard.  This dating information consists of documentation written in 1910.  The style, fabric, and large size all help support the family's information.   This potential date would make it older than the oldest such quilt in the collections of the Smithsonian, and the folks in Canton are pretty pleased with that fact.

It was displayed last month at the local quilt show, only its second public appearance in all these years.

There is a great deal of family history associated with the quilt, making it an even more interesting piece.  The article details the history of Martha, her life and marriage, and the path of ownership and restoration of the quilt, a very interesting read.

Wouldn't we all love to have quilts with such great historical value and provenance in our family collection?

Published in the Canton Citizen.  Written by George T. Comeau.

April 17, 2013

A Good Day's Work

We've got just one month left to get ready for Thin Ice Theater's production of The Phantom Tollbooth.  Costumes have been designed, sewing is in progress, with many moms lending their hands and sewing skills to the process.

Today was set aside for creating miners' hats for the workers in the numbers mine of Digitopolis.  My costume assistant Cheryl and I made our game plan, and in two hours, voilà, all done!  The idea grew bit by bit between us:  plastic hardhats plus cat food cans plus Mardi Gras beads.  Here's how our afternoon went.

The cat food can.

Measuring and marking for two holes 2" apart.

Hammer and nail to poke the holes.

The hard hat.

Reinforced with duct tape, for holes, 2" apart.

 Holes poked by pushing nails through.

 Glue gun, adding Mardi Gras beads.

 Can attached to hat with fasteners (and some glue).

Inside, fasteners covered with duct tape so hair doesn't snag.

One dozen miners' hats, ready to roll.

Costuming is not always about needles and thread!

April 12, 2013

Tapestry Talk

A friend alerted me to this wonderful tapestry that was posted on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Featured Artwork of the Day page.
It is entitled:  Emperor Vespasian Cured by Veronica's Veil, and is Flemish, c. 1510.  The page about this tapestry has a full description, including the story of Veronica's veil and lovely close-up photos.

In style and execution and age, it looks very like the one I was lucky enough to work a year ago.

I highly recommend that you visit the Met's posting, particularly to look at the detail photos.  I find myself so intrigued by the faces and expressions of the people.  They are so sensitive and so clearly portrayed as distinct individuals.

The technique and skill needed to produce that effect is amazing to me.  They were (and tapestries still are) woven on vertical looms.  These old ones were huge pieces (the one at the Met is over 11 feet square).  They were mounted on the looms sideways, i.e. with the top and bottom of the scene at right and left, the side edges of the scene at bottom and top.  There was an outline drawing of the design, known as a cartoon, mounted behind the loom to guide the weaving.  Seems to me to be amazing detailing by people seeing only a small portion of the piece at a time, and having a sideways view of it at that.

The description of my tapestry adventure can be found at these posts:  onetwothree.  Here's a detail of that tapestry.  I would love to know what these two are talking about!

Checking in with the Artwork of the Day sounds like a nice way to get a good day started, doesn't it?

April 3, 2013

Phantom Tollbooth Costume Sketches

Step # Next in the costume process for The Phantom Tollbooth.  It's a real treat to do this show.  For several years now, when we've come across some outrageously silly costume item in the storage boxes, we'd smile and nod at one another and say, "Yep, we'll use that for Phantom."  And now, here we are!

Here are the current working sketches.  Because we have 26 actors and something like 56 costumes, it's, well, quite a project.  (See the costuming progress here and here.)

To help our young actors manage multiple costume changes, most of them are supplying their own black base clothes:  short-sleeved plain black t-shirt and black leggings or stretch pants.  Then costume changes will entail accessories and tunics and the like.  This makes the costume production job more reasonable, too.

Happily, most costume pieces could be found in our stupendous costume collection.  We are mending, embellishing, altering.  Some of the pieces are way too big for our young cast (ages 6-11), but with a bit of elastic, lots of tucks, and deeper hems, we can manage to make things work.  We are also making the kings' headwear and staffs, and a grey, filmy cape for the Dynne.  Oh, and the Dodecahedron's many faces.  Two of our teen actors are masterminding the engineering of that.

It promises to be a colorful and comical show!